VirtualBox - operating systems within operating systems
What is it?
Virtualbox (now owned by Sun) allows you the capability of running another operating system within your current system. Through virtualization (mimicking a computer within a computer), one can use another operating system without changing your current system.
Equivalent software is put out by VMware, Qemu, Xen, Parallels, to list a few.
Overall Virtualbox is relatively easy to set up and use. In short order you can now test that operating system you want to experiment with. Or setup a basic no frills system so you design a portable application. Another idea is testing software, making sure it's safe or effectiveness of an antivirus in cleaning out a virus infection. All without compromising your main operating system.
VirtualBox will set up everything you need for Video display, base memory, Hard Disk, Audio, Network, Serial and USB ports. Your inputs are relatively simple, for more technically oriented people some of the other applications listed like Qemu, or VMware may be of more interest.
For common folk, as I mentioned VirutalBox is an easy setup.
Operating Systems supported/listed
- Windows Versions from 3.1 to 2008 (includes XP and Vista) plus other Windows.
- Linux kernels 2.2 to 2.6
- All flavors of Ubuntu (K,X, so on )
- Arch Linux, Debian, openSUSE, Fedora, Gentoo, Mandriva, Red Hat, Xandros
- Other Linux
- Solaris and Open Solaris
- Free, Open, and Net BSD versions
- OS/2 Warp 3, 4, and 4.5
- Other OS/2
Basically about everything you can toss at it.
A walk through for installing a new operating system
We will now do a walk through for installing an Operating System in VirtualBox.
Creating a new Virtual Machine
Step by step guide
- On the top Toolbar with icons select New (blue star)
- The following pop-up box appears.
- Instructions on Back, and Next buttons
- Click Next when ready
- Name your styles
- For the Operating System pick your main environment
- On Version pick the version equivalent to Operating sysem you wish to insall. See Operating versions supported.
- Click Next
- Pick your memory Size needed (VirtualBox does a recommended - I wouldn't go less unless needed)
- Now we need a Virtual Hard disk, unless you already have a virtual disk click New.
- Now type of Virtual Disk
- I usually pick the recommended Dynamically expanding (which if your system is small keeps the disk requirments small, plus it's size is restricted by another option you will pick)
- Location - need the location of the virtual drive somewheres else. Then click the folder and select the location. Otherwise the default location is picked (in my case it's another partition which you can pick under File - preferences)
- Pick size you want the system to maximumly grow
- Next two steps provide you summary steps for you to review before committing your changes
- The first an overview of your Hard Drive requirements
- The second of the Machine.
- Both steps require you click Finish
Now to install our operating System
If your operating system requires the use of floppies to install, select that and you can either use a floppy drive. Or better still use a floppy.img file (I have been more successful doing it from an img file)
For our example I have a Ubuntu LiveCD on hand. So I have picked CD and use our actual Host CD/DVD drive. Make sure you use the proper letter assignment for the drive used.
Now click General on the Left column, select Advanced tab and select your Boot Order.
At the bottom for the Settings display there is hints and explanations for each step or selection as you Mouse over.
Click OK. And from Main screen Double click your new System, or highlight and either press Enter or Start (green Arrow).
Installation of New Operating System
One Last Hurdle
When first using VirtualBox it will capture your Mouse and Keyboard when you click on the Virtual Display. To get out just use the right Ctrl button, Note: right Ctrl button is the default unless you change it.
However for a seamless operation we need to install VirtualBox guest addons. These allow you to enter/leave the Virtual System without the mouse and keyboard capture. Also resizing of the display. They are available for Linux, OS/2, Windows (not 98 or less). For more information consult VirtualBox.
Installation is from within the Guest Virtual system. For Linux you will need root permission. Windows just the regular install procedures.
Having a second operating system within a system allows flexibility to do some innovative operations. For me I needed to use two Skype accounts from one computer. Both Host and Guest systems had Skype installed. The Virtual Guest couldn't do video which was fine for me, but I could do still did two Skype accounts. Meanwhile the Host was receiving a video call, and all I was doing was relaying the audio portion.
Using VirtualBox can have it's advantages for you. Using those favorite old software programs (games or old applications). Testing various software applications in cross platform operations, setting up a virtual server. designing a portable application by maintain a clean operating system. Test the effectiveness of an antivirus program on an infected system (confined the virus in a sandbox). The choices and list goes on.
Using multiple instances of programs to run under different accounts (ie Skype) or those that prohibit multiple instances being opened.
Maybe you always wanted to try another operating system, just not wanting to totally commit to changing your current configuration. Dual Booting has it's place, but with Virtual systems are like having two computers for one, You can experiment without serious consequences to your main system. Allow usage of software incompatible with your current system.
Enough. Go have fun.